Zillow is donating $5 million toward the construction of a new computer-science building at the University of Washington’s Seattle Campus
Zillow Group on Tuesday became the latest Seattle tech company to make a multimillion-dollar contribution to the construction of a new computer-science building on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus.
If the UW Regents approve the building’s budget and funding plan on Thursday, as expected, construction will begin immediately, said UW computer-science professor Ed Lazowska, one of the leaders of the fundraising campaign.
It’s the first time that Zillow Group, founded in Seattle in 2006, has made a major corporate donation. Lazowska called it “really remarkable for a company this young to step up like this.”
The online real-estate company is donating $5 million toward the cost of the $110 million building. Other big contributors have included Microsoft, which kicked off the drive with a $10 million donation in June 2015, and Amazon, which pledged another $10 million in October of last year.
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“Zillow exists because of the talent coming out of the UW that has built our website, our mobile apps and our data over the years,” said Amy Bohutinsky, chief operating officer of Zillow Group. “It’s now time for us to give back.”
The company has partnered with the UW over the years on a variety of projects, including a hackathon to build apps that help people using federal housing vouchers find low-income housing.
The hackathon helped show “how you can use urban data and housing data to make the city a better place to live for all people — in many ways, that’s what Zillow’s all about,” said Lazowska, noting that the real-estate data Zillow provides was once only available to real-estate professionals.
The new building, which will be the second building on the Seattle campus devoted to computer science, will allow the UW to double the number of students who can major in the university’s most desirable field.
More freshmen entering the UW last fall named computer science as their preferred major than any other field. But the UW has to turn away about two-thirds of those who want to major in computer science, in part because it doesn’t have enough space.
In all, $55.7 million has been pledged for the building, and the UW has a goal of raising $70 million privately. About $32 million in state funds is also being used to fund construction.
Because not all of the pledges will be in the bank when construction starts, the computer-science department on Thursday will ask the UW regents for a bridge loan of up to $25 million. If the regents approve that proposal, construction will begin.
The building will be 135,000 gross square feet and will include a 3,000-square-foot flexible event space that will be called “Zillow Commons.” The building will have 16 labs, a lecture hall, two classrooms and three seminar rooms. It will also provide space for full-time faculty, post-doctorate students, graduate students and researchers.
The building will be constructed across the street from the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, on land that once housed a small nuclear reactor.
It’s expected to be completed in early 2019.